Friday, May 10, 2013

The Harrogate Agenda: Chartists revisited


"Whether, indeed, the house of commons be in a great measure filled with idle school-boys, insignificant coxcombs, led-captains and toad-eaters, profligates, gamblers, bankrupts, beggars, contractors, commissaries, public plunderers, ministerial dependants, hirelings, and wretches, that would sell their country, or deny their God for a guinea, let every one judge for himself".

So said Major John Cartwright in his treatise Take Your Choice published in 1776, a document in which he enunciated the very same six points later to be packaged by the Chartists in 1838 as the People's Charter, some 62 years later.

When then is the link between these and the picture of a steam train? Well, the picture was taken yesterday when we were guests of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway who very generously made available their facilities so that I could be filmed talking about the Chartists against such an impressive backdrop – all part of our Harrogate Agenda foundation video.

The idea was our producer's, who found that the railway had been established within a couple of years of the publication of the People's Charter, providing good visual cues for the interview, also raising the role of the railways in helping the Chartist message to be spread so widely.

Fortified by equally generous hospitality from the delightful refreshment room at Pickering Station, done out in the early British Railway colours, we then moved on Leeds University and the School of History, where we interviewed Professor Malcolm Chase, one of the leading authorities on Chartism, and author of the definitive book on the subject.

What followed was a masterclass on Chartism, in which we were also introduced to John Cartwright, all captured on film. The interview will add a powerful dimension to our video, which is slowly taking shape. However, back home, the sheer intensity of the work has left me exhausted, so I will have to do catch-up in the morning after a night's sleep.


Richard North 10/05/2013

 Local government: our masters want "freedom" to take our money 

 Thursday 9 May 2013
Labour, we are told has been accused of plotting to end Council Tax discounts for those living alone.

In a formal submission to ministers, the Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for the power to end the 25 percent discount offered in recognition of the fact single people place fewer demands on local services.

Among the thing here which chill the bones, though – apart from the proposal itself – is the assertion that the discount currently "costs" around £2.7 billion a year.

The idea that not charging a particular tax is a "cost" is pure Soviet in its purest form. Does income tax at a rate of, say, less than 90 percent, also represent a cost to the state?

But it does not stop there. The LGA is also complaining about the legislation which requires them to hold a local referendum if they want to increase council tax by more than two percent a year.

The rule was introduced following a free-for-all during Labour's years in power when council tax bills doubled. No council has yet dared to stage a referendum, although a number raised council tax by 1.99 percent this year (including my own).

Now says the LGA, town halls should be free to raise council tax "by as much as they like", thus consigning even this limited example of direct democracy to the dustbin of history.

And, of course, if this comes to pass, anyone who refused to pay the impost goes straight to jail, with no defence permitted. And there are people in this country who still believe this country to be a democracy.

Harrogate agenda anyone?